The Fox

Once, there was a fox who lost her way in the woods. She came upon a tribe of flickers and switches. The flickers said that foxes were either dogs or not dogs. The fox shrugged and ate some wild berries. The switches came out in droves to examine her ears, pull her tail, and kick at her paws. What are you? they demanded. I am a fox, she said. And she was a very beautiful fox. What is a fox? they asked. Someone like me, I suppose, she said. The switches whispered amongst themselves, debating whether to skin and vivisect her or pretend she was not obscuring their view of the woods.They wanted to be sure of themselves, however. Describe a fox, they demanded. A fox has pointed ears, a tail, reddish fur, and four paws, she replied. Then a fox is nothing more than a hare, they said, just as a hare passed by. The hare knew about switches and scampered off before having to hear the end of the matter. I don’t look anything like that handsome hare, the fox protested. The switches decided then that she was a stray deer, for deer have reddish fur, pointed ears, tails and four legs. I am not a deer, the fox said. You don’t want to be anything, the switches screamed. Some were already sharpening their awls, rakes, butcher knives and forks. I want to be a fox, the fox said firmly. You will be a hare or a deer, and you will understand that a fox is nothing. Is the fox a tail? Lots of things have tails. Is the fox its paws? Even the children of men have paws. Is the fox its ears? What then are we listening to your nonsense with? A dead and empty thing—that is a fox! A pure nothing! Even if we opened you up, we would find nothing but blood and guts, and everyone has that. A fox is nothing! The poor fox was very hurt to hear these things. Her blood and guts trembled a little. Fearing their filed teeth and sharp trinkets, she ran off into the woods, and kept running as fast as she could. Hunger and exhaustion ached through her bones and sinews. She lost her bearings and did not know who she was or what to do. She saw a hare munching on some herbs and tried to do the same, but the herbs gave her bad dreams. She saw a deer eating some horse chestnuts, and tried to do the same, but the horse chestnuts made her vomit for days. Weakfooted and worn down with grief, she could barely walk the paths of the woods. One day, she stumbled by accident into the open country. Blinded by the sun and wind, she wandered over the pale fields, lost and alone. She went to sleep beneath another horse chestnut tree, the only tree for miles around. At least now she knew that, whatever she was, she would not eat those rotten chestnuts! A fox is either a fox or not a fox, she sighed, and went to sleep. Soft voices called through the darkness of sleep. When she opened her eyes, there were children playing in the roadway. Hail, pretty fox! they cried out with joy. They looked like angels. One by one, they brought her presents–berries and scraps that were good to eat and that filled her bones and sinews, her blood and guts, with a peaceful warmth. They beckoned to her, and she followed them down the road, happy whenever they called her name or stretched out their hands with something good to eat.

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